Tag Archives: discovery life

A gilded cage is not the answer, Liberty and Discovery

I remember, just after 9/11, listening to Clem Sunter speak about the choices that America had in response to the events that had just unfolded. Essentially, they had two choices, and the choice they made would define their future.
Continue reading A gilded cage is not the answer, Liberty and Discovery


When a client of mine visited me may years ago, he picked up a pen and piece of paper to make a note and immediately challenged me about whether I was an independent financial planner or whether I worked for the company whose pen and pad he had picked up?

He was being facetious but he made a very valuable point (for me at least).

How can I claim to be independent but then I hand a client a pen from company A when she signs an application form for company A and all the while pressing on the desk pad from the same company?

Right then and there I cleared my office of anything that had reference to any company that we use – we are independent financial planners and can afford to buy our own stationery and calendars. There is no marketing material from any financial company in our office – they dont pay us to advertise on their behalf and will not compromise our independence either.

I was reminded of this when I saw this sign on the wall outside a financial planning practice in Cape Town…I understand what they mean but does the average client? Are you independent or do you work for Discovery?

Dear Old Mutual, Liberty, Sanlam, Momentum, Discovery, PPS et al (insert name of insurance company)

Dear Old Mutual, Liberty, Sanlam, Momentum, Discovery, PPS et al (insert name of company)


There is a peculiar thing in this industry that if you are not the advisor on record because you don’t have a contract at a particular company (or the client transfer was not processes correctly) that you cant get information for your client from that company – without a letter of authority that is. But then not just any letter of authority – almost every one of the insurers/investment companies has their own interpretation of what this should be. Some are happy with a generic letter, some want it on their own form, some are happy with a letter that is dated last year others want it dated not more than 30 days ago and even different call centre agents appear to have different interpretations of the internal rules of the company. As a rule, insurance companies are worse than unit trust companies when it comes this this!

On the face of it this might seem reasonable, after all the insurers have a duty to protect their clients’ information from unscrupulous advisors* don’t they (NB see comment below)?

However, consider the medical profession where doctor A calls doctor B about a patient that they have both seen – information is shared freely and easily – even if doctor B is no longer treating the patient. There is an understanding that both doctors are professionals, that both have the patient’s interests at heart and that the information will be used for the patient’s best interests.

In the financial planning industry it appears that the opposite is true – I think that the lowest common denominator rule applies in that insurance companies are so used to dealing with unscrupulous advisors that they have it as their default setting that all financial planners are crooks and therefore must be treated with suspicion when it comes to requesting client information!  (As an aside, in my opinion, The Financial Planning Institute is missing a trick here and should have negotiated with each of the companies that anyone carrying the Certified Financial Planner® designation should be entitled to get any information that they request i.e. the default setting should be “trustworthy” for CFP® professionals).

To the insurance companies – if you want my business then treat me like a professional. I am not a crook – if I request information it is because I have been authorised/mandated by the client to get it. If only you knew just how much I hate having to deal with you and your call centres (or maybe if only you cared about how much I hate dealing with you). When we request client information and I am told (often by a rude agent) that we are not entitled to the information because:

  1. We are not the advisor on record, or
  2. The letter of authority is too old, or
  3. The letter of authority is not in the correct format, or
  4. Think of any other excuse not to give the information!

Every single part of my being has to fight the urge to take the business away from your company. When you won’t give me the information that I need (and am entitled to by virtue of the fact this it is my client) then it gets increasing difficult to recommend that the client stays with your company.

You just don’t get it: you spend millions each year advertising and building brand so that you can attract more customers rather than focus on retaining the ones you already have. It’s all about service!

You have no idea just how badly I want to take business away from you and how hard I have to fight against this desire sometimes when in spite of your rubbish client service, it still makes sense for the client to keep the policy.

But I guess the problem is you just don’t care!


*Unless of course said unscrupulous advisor is the source of much new business for the company!